Become a Leader Others Want to Follow

Today, my newest book, Leadershift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace, finally hits shelves in stores. Thank you to everyone who pre-ordered a copy of the book or helped get the word out through social media. We’re expecting a great launch, and it’s made possible by your help and excitement.

I’m also excited for this book! Not just because it’s new, but because so much has changed since I first began teaching about leadership. Once upon a time, leadership wasn’t the buzzword it is today. In fact, when I first started teaching about leadership, everyone else was talking about management.

Management was all about titles, stability, and positional authority. Leadership is different—it’s about influence, adaptability, and moral authority. Managers are given responsibility; leaders earn respect. I want to talk to you today about how leaders earn that respect.

I want to talk about developing moral authority as a leader.

You see, moral authority is a weightiness, a sense of wisdom and experience that encourages other people to put their trust in you. A leader with moral authority is someone who has turned time into an ally—over time, a leader with moral authority has proven to be consistently competent, have consistent character, and shown consistent courage.

There’s a common theme in that sentence—consistency.

I talk a lot about consistency because it’s been the key to my leadership success. In fact, it’s one of the things that surprises me most about leadership. If you do the right things the right way for the right reasons when you’re young, it often goes unnoticed by the world at large.

But do that over decades? You’ll get more credit than you think you deserve.

I’ve been consistent in my personal growth, my teaching, my character, my thinking, my writing—and because of that, I’ve been able to stay in the game for over forty years. I call it layered living. The benefits and gains from year to year work together to produce a life of leadership that others want to learn from.

That’s the funny thing about the leadershift to moral authority—in a fast forward world, where we face daily change and disruption, our people are looking for a leader who can provide stability. It is the task of the leader to be flexible enough to change while being trustworthy enough to provide hope. Flexibility and trust are achieved through consistency.

To go back to my earlier point, there are three areas where leaders must become consistent if they wish to earn moral authority:

  • Competence—this is the ability to lead well. Making smart decisions, knowing your people, understanding your field, and committing to personal growth are all examples of competence. Leaders who demonstrate that they know what they’re doing—and that they learn from their mistakes—establish themselves as a leader worth following.
  • Courage—this is moving forward in the face of fear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the presence of mind to act when afraid. Every leader needs courage to make hard decisions, needed changes, and cast vision.
  • Character—this is being bigger on the inside than the outside. Leaders of character know that who they are is more than what they achieve. Character is a commitment to continual growth in the areas of integrity, authenticity, humility and love.

When I was in my early thirties, I decided to do five things to make myself a better leader—always put people first; live to make a difference, not to make money; be myself, but be my best self possible; express gratitude—reject entitlement; be willing to be misunderstood and lonely for the right reasons.

I made the commitment to live out those five things, not because I saw them as means to an end, but because I felt they were simply the right things to do. I’ve worked hard to follow those guidelines for the last forty years, and I’ve been blessed to see a great return on that decision.

In the end, you don’t get to grant yourself moral authority. Only others can do that. But you can strive for it—and you should. In a shifting world, leaders with moral authority become a foundation for others to build upon.

It’s a leadershift worth making.

9 Comments

  1. Pastor John Grodzinski on February 5, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Appreciate all your information

    • Blessing Emah on February 14, 2019 at 8:27 am

      Reading Writeups like this widens my mind and reposition my focus that creating impact in people’s lives should be the goal.
      Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  2. Paige Wescott on February 5, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Thank you, Pastor/Dr. John!

    Thank you for mentoring me and my team DAILY with your Minute with Maxwells, your books, your podcasts and your video teachings. Your example inspires, your humility refreshes, and your wisdom moves us forward! Thank you for continuing to write, edify and give voice to amazing millennials who are adding value, connecting and leading with moral authority just like you! I am grateful, I am better and I am so much closer to living out my purpose because of YOUR faithfulness to your call. Cheering you on and thanking God for you and your impactful, transformational leadership teachings, writings and life!
    Blessings on you, your beautiful family (who are with you as you serve) and your amazing marriage. You are a gift to us and to many generations who will follow…

  3. Lillian Gitau on February 5, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    In a world without any absolutes, moral authority in leadership is so rare…yet so very needed.

  4. Caroljean Hardwick on February 5, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you Leader Dr. John for sharing your amazing gift and talent with the world. I’m doing my best to apply your goodly leadership principles to my life . Though it seems like baby steps,I’m committed to keep pressing on until those steps nature into confident adult ones. One of my goals this year, along with my husband, is to go on a cruise with you. I wonder.. Are there any come up for this year?
    My husband and I would love to be mentored by great leaders as yourself. You are a true blessing to the Kingdom of God.
    Blessings,

  5. Peter Banzon on February 5, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    Hi John , great book on Leadershift. Thank you for being a mentor to countless numbers of people throughout these years. Just a comment on the kindle edition of Leadershift. As I was reading chapter 2 Soloist to Conductor, I noticed that the headings for completing and competing were mistakenly interchanged such that the column for completing reads competing. However we who have read you and followed you know it was an error in typesetting the digital version. God bless you always.

  6. Howard Moss on February 5, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    25 years ago I received my first book by Dr. John Maxwell, “Developing the Leader within you.” Now 25 years later without doubt, Dr. Maxwell’s greatest gift to me has been and will continue to be his example of moral authority. I thank God for you Dr. Maxwell.

  7. Ronald V. Cadiente on February 5, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Itz really true that most of the leaders nowadays posses the “positional authority” attitude. Your book will truly enlighten them to know the comparison of being a leader and a manager and the only word they should do is to accept or embrace the changes. Thank you pastor John for all these learnings.May God bless you and your family.

  8. Christopher Scott on February 5, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    Dr. Maxwell, thank you for another book and for your ministry. Your leadership books have meant so much to me as a young leader (33yrs). I am re-reading The 360 Degree Leader. I look forward to picking up a copy of your new book. Thank you again!

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